Carlsberg CEO Cees ’t Hart Announces Surprise Retirement

Hart became Carlsberg’s first non-Danish CEO with a mission to restore growth after a period of stagnant earnings.
Cees't Hart Photographer: Carsten Snejbjerg/Bloomberg
Cees't Hart Photographer: Carsten Snejbjerg/Bloomberg

Carlsberg A/S Chief Executive Officer Cees ’t Hart will retire after eight years as the Danish brewer struggles to extricate itself from Russia and to raise prices enough to offset surging inflation.

Hart will leave the brewer at the end of the third quarter at the latest, Carlsberg said Tuesday, adding it has started the search for a successor. The stock fell as much as 4%.

Born in 1958, the Dutch CEO has been in the role since 2015 and is turning 65 this year. Still, the company didn’t name an immediate successor, suggesting the departure may have happened sooner than expected.

Hart became Carlsberg’s first non-Danish CEO with a mission to restore growth after a period of stagnant earnings. During his tenure, he succeeded in cutting costs and improving profitability but failed to reignite strong revenue growth.

The Danish brewer said in February that 2023 will be difficult and signaled the industry may be reaching a limit with price increases as consumers start to retrench and consume less beer. It issued a wide-ranging profit forecast saying full-year operating profit could rise or fall as much as 5%.

“Staying on board for another half a year will allow me and the team to continue delivering on our challenging plans for 2023 and accomplishing the sale of the Russian business before the summer,” the CEO said in the statement. 

Hart has focused on expanding the 176-year-old beermaker’s range of specialty brews and non-alcoholic beers, segments where profitability has been the highest. 

Carlsberg, which is the biggest brewer in Russia and employs 8,400 people there, said last March it would exit that country completely due to the war in Ukraine. The brewer entered Russia in 2000 and the operations were for years seen as the beermaker’s biggest growth opportunity. The market previously made up almost a third of Carlsberg’s profit, but its share has diminished in recent years.

(Updates with shares in second paragraph)

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